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Okla. Officials Arrested in Probe

May 3, 2000

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The interim state health commissioner was arrested at work by the FBI in a bribery-kickback investigation involving the regulation of nursing homes.

Brent VanMeter, 46, was led away from Health Department offices in handcuffs Tuesday afternoon as investigators armed with 13 warrants searched six locations, including the Health Department, VanMeter’s home and private businesses.

VanMeter, who spent the night in the Oklahoma County jail, and five other state Health Department workers were suspended with pay as the investigation unfolded. Jerry Regier, a member of Gov. Frank Keating’s cabinet, was appointed the new interim commissioner.

VanMeter was booked on a complaint that pertains to theft or bribery concerning programs that receive federal funds. Federal prosecutors would not elaborate, nor would they say whether other arrests were pending.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said the investigation was looking into ``possible criminal activity which may have impacted the health care of patients in several Oklahoma nursing homes.″

VanMeter had been interim commissioner since April 24, when Commissioner J.R. Nida went on medical leave following surgery.

Don Hudman, executive director of the Area Wide Agency on Aging, said his organization and other advocates for the aging have complained for years that VanMeter has been a defender of nursing homes and ignored legitimate problems in the industry.

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